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By Janet Spencer

Copyright 2000, Janet M. Spencer

First Fact

October 17-25 is National Kitchen and Bath Week, to facilitate the exchange of information about the two most frequently remodeled rooms in the house.

Bathtubs Through History

* After Arabs conquered Alexandria, they allegedly used 700,000 library books as fuel to keep the fires going in the city's 4,000 public baths.

* The Baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome covered almost 28 acres. Over 1,600 people could bathe at the same time.

* Benjamin Franklin is thought to have imported the first bathtub into America. He improved its design and spent much of his time reading and writing while soaking.

* Martin Van Buren lost his bid for re-election in 1840 partly due to the fact that taxpayers thought his recent installation of the first hot water heater in the White House was wasteful. He liked to heat his bathwater

* Millard Fillmore was the first president to have a bathtub in the White House, in 1850.

* Napoleon was in the tub one day in 1803 when his brothers Joseph and Lucien barged in all in a rage because he planned to sell Louisiana to the Americans. Napoleon splashed his bathwater all over Joseph, whereupon the shocked valet fainted dead away.

* Edmond Rostand was a French writer who hated to be interrupted while he was working, but he did not like to turn his friends away because he was writing. So he spent much of his time writing while in the bathtub- and turned away his friends because he was taking a bath. In 1898 he published "Cyrano de Bergerac".

* The king wanted to have his old gold crown melted down and made into a new crown. However, he was afraid that the jeweler hired to do the work would cut the pure gold with a less expensive metal such as silver. The crown would still weigh the same; it would still look like pure gold; but the jeweler would be making off with a chunk of royal gold for free. The king asked Greek scientist Archimedes how he would be able to tell if the jeweler stole gold from the royal crown. Archimedes pondered the question for some time. Then, he decided to take a bath. As he got into the over-filled tub, some water splashed on the floor. That's when he realized that a body immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces- an important law of physics. He knew that by weighing the amount of water displaced by the crown both before and after it was re-worked, he could tell if the gold had been adulterated. He became so excited that he allegedly rushed naked into the streets of Syracuse, Sicily, shouting "Eureka!" which means "I have found it!" The crown was weighed, the jeweler did indeed steel some gold- and he paid for it with his life.

History and Hoaxes

On December 28, 1917, H.L. Mencken published a fictitious history of the bathtub in the "New York Evening Mail". The story told all about how the tub was unknown in America until 1842 when a Cincinnati grain dealer brought one back from Europe. However, people refused to believe in the usefulness of the bathtub. Doctors of the day said that bathing was a health hazard and legislators passed laws against it. The bathtub did not gain acceptance until Pres. Millard Fillmore ordered one installed in the White House in 1851. For years, Mencken watched in awe as his totally fabricated story about bathtubs became part of accepted American history. In 1926, he revealed the story to be a hoax which he published only to lighten things up during the war. People refused to believe the truth, and his history of bathtubs even appeared in the "Dictionary of American History" written in 1970.

Modern Developments

* A company in Seattle markets an inch-thick vinyl pad that fits inside a standard sized bathtub. It helps keep water warm longer as well as making the tub more comfy.

* If you're looking for something different in tubs, try the Sensorium Ambiance tub from American Standard. It's computer controlled, so you can call home on the phone and punch in a code to have the tub automatically fill at a pre-selected temperature. A remote camera lets you see who's at the door as you soak, and you can admit them by remote control. All for under $25,000.

* The Ultra Limousine Company came out with a 104-foot Cadillac featuring eight TV sets, a swimming pool, and a kitchen complete with food processor and microwave. Ultra has also designed a hot tub that bolts into the trunk of any Lincoln.

"A Bathtub Full of WHAT?"

* A student at the University of Southwestern Louisiana announced his intention of spending 34 hours seated in a bathtub full of ketchup. He lasted only 17 hours.

* Cad Wilson was a Klondike girl. One miner wanted to make an unforgettable impression on her, so he filled her bathtub with wine and invited her to take a bath. Instead Cad had the wine re-bottled and sold.

* When the script called for actress Claudette Colbert to take a bath in 400 gallons of milk in the 1932 film "The Sign of the Cross", she agreed to do the scene. Unfortunately the scene took a week to complete and by the end of the week, the 400 gallons of milk had gone sour.

Quick Bits

* About 365 people drown in their bathtubs each year. By comparison, about 350 people get struck by lightning annually.

* The longest Monopoly game played in a bathtub lasted 99 hours. The longest in a moving elevator lasted 384 hours.

* Reginald Huffstetler stayed afloat in an eight foot square tub of water for 98 1/2 hours in 1983. He never touched the bottom or the sides.

* The "Bath Blast" Barbie doll could be dressed in soap suds using a spray can of colored foam.

* An old law in Kentucky required citizens to take a bath at least once a year.

Alligator Stories

* A thief in Rio de Janeiro was burglarizing a home when he awakened the sleeping occupants. Running from the house in panic, he jumped into a bathtub in the backyard of the house next door. In the tub was what he thought was a large log. When the log showed its teeth, he realized it was actually a large alligator. He jumped out of the tub and into the hands of the cops.

* A friend gave Dorothy Parker a small alligator. She put it into the bathtub until she could figure out what to do with it, then left for an appointment. When she returned, she found this note from the maid: "I have resigned. I refuse to work in a house where there is an alligator in the bathtub. I would have told you this before, but I did not think the matter would ever come up."

Fast Facts

* During the bombing of London in World War II, a young lady was taking a bath when her home was hit by a bomb. The bathtub was thrown in the air and came down upsidedown with the girl underneath it. The tub sheltered her from the collapsing rubble. Rescuers digging through the ruins looking for survivors were very surprised to find a naked girl unharmed under the bathtub.

* Mark Twain often told folks that he was one of a set of identical twins. No one could tell them apart because they were so similar. One day in the bathtub one of the twins drowned, but no one ever knew which twin it was. Twain would continue, "That was the tragedy. Everyone thought I was the one that lived, but I wasn't. It was my brother who lived. I was the one that was drowned!"

* After the movie "Psycho" was released, a man wrote to Alfred Hitchcock and complained that because she had seen the film, his wife refused to bathe or shower. He wanted suggestions as to what he could do. Hitchcock replied, "Sir, have you ever considered sending your wife to the dry cleaner?"

* The Great International Bathtub races have taken place off the coast of Vancouver Island every year since 1967. Contestants manufacture light fiberglass tubs and mount outboard motors on the back. No entry is allowed to be more than six feet long and three feet wide. Boats and helicopters stand by to rescue bathtubs in trouble. In 1981 only 30 of 133 contestants crossed the finish line due to high seas. The winner ran the 39 mile course in one hour, 19 minutes.

Baths as Art

* Painter Leopold Robert encountered much friction caused by his picture entitled "Two Girls Disrobing for Their Bath" which depicted two unclothed girls. Robert defended himself by pointing out that the girls in the painting were taking their bath in an entirely secluded location where no peeping toms could see them.

* Eccentric artist Salvidor Dali was invited by a store on 5th Avenue in New York City to design their window display. Dali's subsequent creation was titled "Night and Day" and featured many unusual pieces. A bed covered with black sheets stood for night; the canopy over the bed was a buffalo with a bloody pigeon in its mouth; and a mannequin lay on the bed covered in cobwebs with its head propped up on fake burning coals. Day was represented by an ermine-lined bathtub filled with water. A mannequin in a gorgeous ballgown was stepping into the tub while looking into a mirror held by two arms sprouting from the floor. Dali set up this whole display, then left for the night. But while he was gone, an employee who thought the display could be improved upon changed the whole set around. The bed was removed, the decor changed, and the mannequin repositioned. Dali was furious. He stormed into the store and in protest tried to overturn the tub of water. But he slipped and both he and the bathtub crashed through the plate glass window, landing on the sidewalk. Dali was arrested but given a suspended sentence. He got front page coverage for weeks.


* How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Ten. Three to hold the giraffe, and seven to shovel the Pacific into the bathtub.

* Doctor: "Is your cold any better?" Patient: "Nope." Doctor: "Did you drink orange juice after a hot bath like I told you?" Patient: "Nope- after drinking the bath, I couldn't get the orange juice down!"

* Limerick: There once was a lady named Harris/ That nothing seemed apt to embarrass/ Till the bathsalts she shook/ In a tub that she took/ Turned out to be plaster-of-Paris!

Final Fact

After burglarizing a home in Pasadena, CA, a thief decided to use the big bathtub before he left with the loot. And that's where he was when the police walked in.

All Contents Copyright 1998 by Janet Spencer. All Rights Reserved.

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